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Careful removal of salvageable materials is gaining momentum

If you’re remodeling your kitchen or want to build your dream home on property with a not-so-idyllic house, there’s a way to tear down that doesn’t involve the wrecking ball.

Deconstruction – the careful removal of salvageable hardwood flooring, light fixtures, cabinetry, doors and nearly everything that makes a house a house – is gaining momentum.

As a result, more than three-fourths of the house can be reused and recycled instead of all of it ending up in the dump. More than 30 percent of waste that goes into landfills consists of building and construction materials.

Jack Williams and Jane York recently opted for deconstructing their Leawood, Kan., ranch home, where they had lived for 28 years, to build their post-retirement dream home.

Their mantra: How can we do things smarter than what we’ve done in the past?

“It does take some effort,” says Williams, smiling inside their new 2,300-square-foot space, still under construction.

“We feel like pioneers,” York adds.

Besides being easier on the Earth, deconstruction – if you donate your home’s salvageable materials to a nonprofit like Habitat for Humanity ReStore – can be lighter on the pocketbook than demolition.

However, initial costs don’t reflect that. The average one-week demolition is $10,000 to $20,000. Deconstruction, which can take a month or two, is typically $20,000 to $35,000.

“Deconstruction means taking it apart by hand instead of by machine,” says Lance Houston, owner of Houston Excavating and Demolition in Liberty, Mo.

“Habitat ReStore takes out what can be salvaged – sinks, cabinets, so forth. …All metals, like copper piping, can be salvaged at the scrap yard.”

Financially, deconstruction can be a leap of faith. It takes someone who isn’t afraid of waiting until taxes are filed to get the money back.

“So far, since we started doing this in 2001, no one has gotten (financially) hurt by the process that we know about,” says Mark Bullock, deconstruction manager for Habitat ReStore in Kansas City, Mo., who helps contractors and homeowners navigate the process.

To recoup costs, you have to hire an appraiser who specializes in deconstruction. In deconstruction appraisals, the value is of the salvageable structure.

York and Williams, who worked with a Colorado appraiser, found out their structure was worth about $46,000, so after taxes, they will get money back instead of being out money, as they would have been if the structure had been demolished.

In California, John Cowden and his wife embraced deconstruction. The Cowdens’ structure was valued at $99,000 by an appraiser, meaning with their tax bracket, they’ll get money back from their deconstruction, too.

“It’s been really easy,” says John Cowden, a pediatrician. “And it’s had huge upsides.”

Williams and York’s original foundation, garage floor, basement, patio, half the driveway and the brick chimney were crushed and used for the new house’s foundation backfill. The couple kept a few faucets and light fixtures for the new house, too.

Williams says 82 percent of their home was reused through Habitat ReStore or recycled, including scrap wood that was chipped into mulch.

On average, more than 75 percent of a home can be reused and recycled. Items that typically can’t be repurposed are insulation, PVC pipes, roofing, old carpet, and fragile tile.


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